Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Uncle Frank--at Holtdale

Frank Raymond Holt II--now there was an uncle to brag about. Frank was born 19 March 1911 in Rochester, Pennsylvania to Agnes Gertrude Childs and Frank Raymond Holt Sr. According to Grandad, Frank was an absolute joy around the house. He was mischievous, bubbly, in to everything, and on the farm no Indian was known to yell louder, run faster, or poke his nose into more things or places. Somewhere around 1919 or 1920, he contracted polio and it settled in his right, lower leg leaving him crippled for life. But that didn't slow Frank down even one little bit. He use to say that he passed high school---"through the front door and out the back," so his formal education was minimal at best.

Sometimes Uncle Frank, who was an unrelenting practical joker and tease, would help with spraying the fruit trees. One of my earliest memories of Uncle Frank was when Dad, Grandad and Uncle Frank were spraying in the orchard. Dad had built a seat for me up on top of the sprayer tank so I could ride along. The sprayer was wheeled and pulled by the farm's Fordson tractor. Frank was always full of the old nick. This time, Dad was driving the tractor and Frank and Grandad were spraying the trees on their respective side of the sprayer. Somehow Frank always managed to spray me with the stinking lime-sulfur spray. More than once, I went screaming to Mom who, in turn, gave all three a tongue lashing for soaking me. In spite of that, Frank and I became great friends and constantly played practical jokes on each other.

One time, when I was eight or nine years old, Uncle Frank was painting the chicken coop, which was near the “three-holer” outhouse. Always the practical joker, he painted a ring around each seat in the outhouse. Shortly thereafter, I came down to bug him a bit and while there, needed to take care of the call of nature. I popped into the half-moon house, dropped my drawers and sat down. Squish! Arrgh! I had been had. I heard Uncle Frank howling with delight at my plight. He made sure, to my great annoyance, that everyone else knew about it too. What to do to even the score? I had been assigned to pull weeds in the garden and I remembered some nice big Scottish thistles that had given me trouble in the weeding chore. I pulled the heads of some and carefully placed them in Frank's bed. He, as usual, had gone sparking (courting the ladies) that evening. I was sound asleep when a loud and explosive curse awakened everyone. Uncle Frank had found my thistles. Oh, what sweet revenge.

In Frank's early twenties, Grandad helped him purchase an airplane, a two seater, bi-wing Waco. He kept it at the airport in Patterson Height's, up on the mountain top behind Fallston. His instructor, Vic Berge, became a family friend. Because of his crippled leg, Frank could never get his pilot's license even though he was proficient at flying his plane. He would frequently fly over the farm and buzz the place as well as the neighbor's homes. On one of those sassy, buzzing jaunts, he knocked a brick out of our neighbor Jack Engle's chimney. Now that was the talk of the neighborhood for awhile. All we kids, as well as Dad and Mom, rode in the thing with him from time to time. I have a great memory of him in that airplane, pulling up to park after a flight, with his tight, leather helmet strapped snugly under his chin with the big goggles and his nice, white, flowing-in-the-breeze scarf. He survived his airplane phase in grand style.

Some time in the late 1920's or early 1930's Uncle Frank left the farm. Then in 1934 and out of work he returned but was now married to Mildred (Crumrine) Walter's, who had a child, Mickey, from a previous marriage. Grandad gave him an acre and helped him financially to build a home on it. The family moved into their only partially finished home which was adjacent to Grandad's house.
Mother and Dad had lived in the house that came with the farm since their marriage in 1920 and Grandad lived with them after Grandmother died. Dad had been told the farm would eventually be his if he stayed and help make it into a viable entity. It had been a tough fourteen or so years but it had started to pay off. Then, when Frank returned, Grandad decreed that Frank would be a full partner with Dad on the farm. That arrangement, flawed at best, lasted until the late summer of 1936 when Dad, after an argument with Grandad about the money situation, abruptly quit the partnership. That very day he moved Mother and us kids into the unfinished home he was building on the other side of the farm. He found a job as a wire drawer in the J&L steel mills. Frank also left the farm and started his welding career which in time, led to a very successful career for him.


  1. Great story!! How on earth did you get the paint off? Haha!!

  2. I can see where I get it. This is a good story to remember.